Tuesday, October 05, 2010

One word China, EFFICIENCY! Part 2

Heading back to Gwangzou:
Back through the Health check stand, up to the deceivingly fancy Immigration counter:

Officer: Passport and Boarding Pass please.
Me: Our flight leaves at 9am tomorrow in nearly 12 hours. (It's 10pm) We only have an itinerary. (hands itinerary to officer.)
Officer: No boarding pass?
Me: No, just itinerary. (points to itinerary in officer's hands)
Officer: You must have boarding pass first.
Me: Ok, where do we get it?(Officer points to a single empty check in counter across the way.)
Me:...There's no one there.
Officer: Just go wait, they come.
Me: Ok thank you.(we go and wait in line at the empty counter.

Meanwhile, other people from our flight and a few other flights start lining up in the immigration lines. Vanessa and I inform them that our officer told us we needed boarding passes first. After 5 minutes or so, most of the foreigners have formed a line at the single empty check in counter. A girl in purple then walks to where we are and asks the couple at the front of the line;

Purple girl: What are you doing?
Couple: We were told we need boarding passes first.
Purple girl: Did you go through immigration check?
Couple: No, they told us to get boarding passes first.
Purple girl: No, no. Immigration first, then board upstairs. Immigration first.
(Group sigh from all the foreigners as we disperse to get back in the immigration lines.

Purple girl walks off, talks to an Officer then walks back to the check in desk and starts typing on the computer. An officer walks over to a few foreigners and tells them to get in line at the Check in desk with Purple girl. The foreigners stutter a few buts and protests but get waved off by the officer who keeps pointing at the check in so we all start to head back over.)

Once we are back in line, we wait about 10 minutes. 4 people get their boarding passes and a very angry looking officer comes over and starts directing us all back to the immigration lines. At this point we are all getting grouchy and are feeling like a heard of cattle. We get through the lines only to be rounded up again in our little holding corner and this time have to wait for nearly an hour before receiving our passports, again with someone calling out names for the officer.

Now most of us were expecting to be lead back upstairs to our departure gates but instead we are told that we should proceed downstairs and that we can check in at the counters down there tomorrow morning. We later found out that we had been given 1 day entry visas which aren't very common in China and usually cost a bit. Regardless, we really didn't know what to do at this point but figured that being the well traveled and resourceful teachers we are, we could fend for ourselves. Check in was at 7 which gave us about 10 hours so here's what we did:

9pm: Scoped out the airport looking for a good place to rest our rumps.9:30pm: Picked a spot with some decently comfy chairs but no carpet, talked about building a fort and busted out the snacks. But decided to get some McDonalds as Pringles weren't cutting it.
11pm: After running around trying to buy something at the golden arches (they wouldn't take any type of credit card and wouldn't exchange money. Between us we had five currencies; Korean won, Thailand baht, Philippino pesos, American dollars and the little bit of Chinese yuan. We somehow managed to buy enough nuggets and fries to feed our group with about 10 dollars worth of Chinese money one guy had left over from his last trip here.
12am: A group of Philippinos that were on our flight inform us that they found out about a free hotel for people who's flights have been delayed. We debate about how sketchy this feels and whether or not it's worth the risk of being taken off to an organ farm or labor camp. The van driver keeps yelling at us, "no money, no money!" and some other things in Chinese no matter the question. A few decide the dude is just too shady but most of us decide to go and hope that there really is safety in numbers.
1:30 amish: We arrive at the hotel about 20 minutes away from the airport in what feels like the armpit of China. Huge neon lights welcome us in to what at first felt like a skanky love motel. 45 minutes later, they let us check in after making copies of our passports and itineraries and we head up to our rooms that are surprisingly comfy and clean. Truly one of the nicer hotel rooms we have stayed in in Asia and while the beds where hard as rocks, we slept well for the next 4 hours. We got a wake up knock right on time and were handed boxes of warm milk and a half loaf of white bread for breakfast. We got fast curbside drop off right on time in the morning and didn't have to pay a dime. Just goes to show things aren't always what they seem. We checked in, did the stupid immigration check one last time and headed off to our gate to meet up with the rest of our foreigner crew and crashed on the carpet in front of our gate for the next 2 hours before heading back to the amazingly clean and efficient South Korea.

It all made me wonder if this is just a symptom suffered in that part of China alone or if it was a byproduct of a more systemic lack of efficiency and critical thinking in the big red country. I'd like to believe that it was just a fluke but something tells me that in a country of over a Billion people who all need jobs, sometimes they just gotta find ways to look busy and at least pretend like they know what they're doing.
Whatever the case, it sure gave us something to write home about.


Warren Baldwin said...

Pretty amazing story! I check in and read sometimes but it has been awhile. So have you returned to the States? For how long. Appreciate your work in China. My wife and I have an interest in Russia.

Vanessa Rogers said...

We're back in Korea. It was just a week vacation. :(

Peter and Leslie said...

I don't think it's just China. I know a few people here in the good ole US who do nothing but "look busy." :o)